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The gender pay gap

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April Fools Day pay rise for thousands

The Economist has updated its 'glass ceiling' ranking of the 34 countries which form the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. While Nordic countries such as Iceland and Sweden have been ranked as among the best places in the world to work as a woman, the UK comes below the US in 24th place, with countries such as Poland and France ranked at sixth and seventh respectively. This news also comes at the same time as the announcement by the World Economic Forum that it estimates that full gender parity in respect of pay in the workplace will not be achieved until 2133.

Following the announcement in 2015 that all companies with 250 or more employees would be required to publish the gap between average female and male earnings, campaigners for gender equality reacted with anger to the news in February 2016 that the government is pushing back implementation of the league table to 2018. It is hoped that by giving employees greater access to this kind of information, some of the 8,000 companies estimated to affected will be encouraged to reflect upon the gender pay gap.

Until this proposal takes effect, women who suspect that they are receiving less pay than a male comparator for “like work, work of equal value or work rated as equivalent” could consider taking the following steps:

  • If you are unsure as to whether you are actually receiving less pay than a colleague of the opposite sex, the first step will be to write to your employer asking for information that will help establish whether there is a pay difference and what the reasons for it might be. While the requirement to respond to the formal Equality Act questionnaire was abolished in 2014, an employee still has the option of raising questions in respect of any potential discrimination, and an Employment Tribunal can draw negative inferences from an employer’s failure to respond to such enquiries.
  • If you are receiving a lower salary or hourly rate than a male comparator, the next step is to raise a formal grievance by writing to your employer and referencing either its own grievance policy or the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievances at work. This might bring to light information which could be relevant in any potential equal pay claim, such as whether there is a “material factor” which justifies the difference in pay.
  • If the grievance process doesn’t resolve the situation, employees who believe their right to receive equal pay is being breached can bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal or County Court. If the claim succeeds, this would have an impact not only on your own terms and conditions but may also result in the Tribunal ordering an equal pay audit and publishing the results.